Pretty soon, all of our friends were coming out to the bridge, even Billy, the one with the most common sense. He even drove his Mustang out on the service road and parked it along the side of the tracks. Things didn’t always go well. We had our share of mishaps. One day Harold and Billy were throwing rocks off the bridge to see who could throw the highest. Now, these weren’t small rocks; these were the big, thick ones that formed the railroad bed. Harold, who had the best arm, threw one so high into the air that we lost sight of it. I was in the water and Billy tossed a rock down to me so I could try to skip it. I caught it with my left hand and the rock left a deep cut in one of my fingers. A second later, my foot got stuck in the mud; I pulled it out and lost my shoe. So, I was shoeless and bleeding.

Harold, who was still on the trestle throwing rocks, chucked one high into the air. If a person calculates the space and figures the percentages, the area around the bridge that was about one hundred feet by eighty feet wide. This comes out to about eight thousand square feet, give or take. The rocks Harold was throwing into the air were about three and a half inches long, which means that there were twenty-seven thousand, four hundred places in the lake where that rock could have fallen. Well, one of those spots just happened to be the top of my head, dead center. Harold later said, “Ah, Man. It made the weirdest, hollow sound when it hit. Then it bounced up about ten feet back up into the air.” So, by the time I got out of the water, I was bleeding from my hand and my head; I’d lost a shoe; I was soaking wet, and when I walk along the tracks, the railroad ties were so damn hot that I couldn’t walk on them without burning my feet. Billy thought it was real damn funny. Maybe it was.

I made a special effort to keep up with the guys in the crew. I was overweight, a slow runner, and I couldn’t ride a motorcycle or skateboard to save my life. Harold’s little sister even called me hippo, but I took it the best I held my own in our tribe. In the end, I think this kind of stuff was useful when I’d face real fear later on. A few years ago, I was driving back from Chicago in a snow storm. When I passed the I-80 exit the cars on either side of me spun out of control. One ended up in a ditch and the other careened off the cement guard rail. I knew I was on black ice. Nonetheless, I kept my focus, didn’t flinch or stomp on the brake, and after a few seconds my car regained traction. I think all of us learned to handle crises pretty well; it was living a normal life that was hard.

To be continued…

Cross-posted at My Ongoing Struggle with Misanthropy: http://jimmygabacho.com/?p=895

Gabacho– according to the Dictionary of the Spanish Royal Academy– is derived from an old Provençal word “gavach,” meaning a person from the foothills of the Pyrenees who spoke incorrectly. These days, it means “outsider,” somebody who just doesn’t fit in.

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